* Initial claims fall by 4,000
* Brent crude hovers near $51 a barrel
* Retailers climb after sales results
* Indexes up: Dow 1.48 pct, S&P 1.45, Nasdaq 1.56 pct (Adds quote, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed on Thursday, a day after equities snapped a five-day losing skid, on expectations for continued acceleration in the U.S. economy and more aggressive action by the European Central Bank.
The advance was broad, with 9 of the 10 major S&P sectors gaining at least 1 percent.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were slightly above expectations but slipped by 4,000 from the prior week, pointing to a firming labor market, ahead of the monthly payrolls report on Friday.
“What has occurred the past couple of days is that the market has focused back on what are still good fundamentals for equities. There is a Fed that is going to be patient and pretty transparent on when they are going to raise rates and an economy that is doing pretty well,” said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute in Omaha.
“The other factor that is getting investors excited is the fact the ECB may come in a couple of weeks and do a more robust action around their quantitative easing program.”
Weak data in Europe recently has boosted expectations the ECB will move towards more stimulus.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 259.71 points, or 1.48 percent, to 17,844.23, the S&P 500 gained 29.46 points, or 1.45 percent, to 2,055.36 and the Nasdaq Composite added 72.34 points, or 1.56 percent, to 4,722.80.
The benchmark S&P index had climbed 1.2 percent Wednesday, its biggest advance since Dec. 18, to snap its longest losing streak in about 13 months, after strong private sector jobs data and minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting reassured investors the bank was in no hurry to start raising interest rates.
Signs of possible stabilization in oil prices again helped boost sentiment, as Brent crude was last off 0.3 percent at $51.01, while U.S. crude was flat at $48.64.
Retailers rose after reporting sales results from the holiday season. Urban Outfitters rose 2 percent to $36.08 while the S&P retail index gained 1.1 percent.
Bind Therapeutics shares surged 87.8 percent to $9.67 after the company said it enrolled its first patient in a mid-stage trial for its lung cancer drug.
Neurocrine Biosciences jumped 20.2 percent to $26.31 after an experimental drug being developed by the company with AbbVie successfully reduced symptoms of endometriosis in pre-menopausal women in the first of two late-stage studies.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,322 to 610, for a 3.81-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,986 issues rose and 556 fell for a 3.57-to-1 ratio.
The S&P 500 was posting 50 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 66 new highs and 16 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski